Vocal Cord Dysfunction
Vocal cord dysfunction, also known as VCD, is more likely to be found in women than in men, and the common age of detection is in persons 20 to 40 years of age, although it has been detected in children as young as eight years of age. It is often mistaken for asthma, and at times can co-exist with this, meaning that the sufferer has BOTH conditions. Due to the similarities between VCD and asthma, it is possible that unnecessary medication may be prescribed, until the correct diagnosis of VCD is made. Unfortunately, 59 percent of patients are often misdiagnosed with Asthma, prior to finding out that they actually have VCD.
VCD is a condition in which airway obstruction leads to respiratory distress, due to improper vocal cord motion. In VCD the vocal cords don’t function as they should, and instead of the vocal cords opening when you breathe, they close, making it harder for you to get air into your lungs. Patients often describe excessive wheezing, choking sensations, cough and throat tightness and they can experience shortness of breath, chest and throat tightness, chronic cough, frequent throat clearing and voice hoarseness.
A detailed patient history is needed to differentiate between the diagnosis of asthma and VCD. VCD sufferers generally describe more difficulty in inhalation rather than exhalation, along with a sensation of throat tightness or choking. Pulmonary function testing and laryngoscopy usually helps in determining the correct diagnosis.
VCD is treatable. Patients are usually referred to a speech-language specialist for help and treatment. The specialist will provide education and treatment based on each patient’s need, and will schedule follow-up appointments to reinforce the treatment given, as well as to support and encourage patients. Speech therapy is the usual form of improvement and treatment for vocal cord dysfunction.
To improve VCD most patients receive ndividualized exercises and techniques for practise. Some of the exercises taught in therapy treatment involve; increased awareness of breathing patterns, awareness of body posture and throat relaxation, VCD released breathing techniques, control VCD during exercise, suppression techniques for chronic cough, throat clearing techniques, and vocal hygiene. This exercise and therapy regimen is used to improve, prevent and eliminate vocal cord dysfunction. Patients also need to become aware of possible triggers of VCD which could be set off by; upper respiratory infections, exposure to airborne irritants, strong odors or fumes, cigarette or fire smoke, exercise, singing, laughing, environmental changes, stress, anxiety and tension.
Stress and counseling
As with any other diagnosis related to stress, anxiety and tension, counseling may be needed to help with the lifestyle changes needed to improve your VCD. Counseling may also be needed for the extensive treatments, doctor visits and medications prescribed prior to the proper diagnosis. Some patients fear the worst when symptoms do not go away after numerous prescribed medications and doctor visits. When patients are desperate to find out the problem associated with their symptoms and to be correctly diagnosed, they can experience anxiety and stress, which is a known trigger of vocal cord dysfunction. Counseling can be an important part of treatment for VCD, to help with the anxiety and stress some patients experience.
Making those improvements
Improving the condition is not difficult; but it does take time, care, patience and commitment. Following the guidelines, exercises, and advice of your physician will help with the prevention and possible elimination of vocal cord dysfunction.
With lifestyle changes patients can lead a normal life, and enjoy the activities and exercises they desire. Patients must understand the triggers associated with vocal cord dysfunction and learn how to manage situations that might trigger symptoms. Learning to control stress, anxiety and tension is important in all aspects of life, as these symptoms can lead to bigger health concerns. Understand the diagnosis given, listen to your physician and ask questions, be aware of your environment and triggers associated with vocal cord dysfunction. Acknowledge and commit to the treatment, therapy exercises and changes needed to improve vocal cord dysfunction and start living life normally again. In the end not only will you improve your VCD condition you may eventually eliminate it.